Dan Fox is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Dan Fox: Good afternoon (or morning as it is Colorado)! Great to be with you today. There weren't a lot of pre-chat submissions so we're flying without a net for the most part today. Batter up....
Kyle (Boston): Is Soriano really that good, his on base is only .356 and dropping, and although he has stolen 15 bases he has been caught 7 times? He also has already struck out 61 times. Is everyone overrating Soriano?
Dan Fox: Hey Kyle,
Well, I'm the person who predicted a 750 OPS for Soriano once he moved to Washington and as of Saturday he was sitting at 935 so maybe I'm not the one to ask. But since you did...his high point was at the end of April when he was hitting .338/.384/.625 and he's continued to hit well but in June has been at .258/.352/.548 (as of Saturday) so indeed he's starting to level off. What is surprising of course is his 13 homeruns in 128 at bats at home and 11 in 153 on the road. All of his homeruns have been from center to left at RFK and the Nats have only hit 30 at home.
His strikeout rate is about what it's always been but his walk rate is way up partly due to the fact that he's been intentionally walked a bit more this season. His caught stealing rate is pretty high but Robinson likes to hit and run a bit so that may have something to do with it as well. In the end for a guy with over 3,000 career PA you'd have to think that he's hitting over his head right now and so will end up somewhere in the .280/.320/.500 range but the power increase may in fact be real perhaps aided by the position shift or a different approach that allows him to pull the ball in the air more often (although his GO/AO ratio is very close to his historical norm over the years he's become more of a fly ball hitter). One thing's for sure, the Nats look pretty good right now in terms of the deal since now you've got a guy who can both play second (albeit not wonderfully) and the outfield that another team may just be willing to give up prospects for.
Mike (Honolululu): Danny, any relations to Vincente Fox, Prez of Mexico?
Dan Fox: Ummm. No but great question. No relation to Jimmy Foxx or Red Foxx either.
tommybones (NYC): Hi Dan,
Quick one...who makes a bigger impact in the 2nd half of 2006, Howie Kendrick or Arizona's Chris Young?
Dan Fox: In terms of the pennant races Hendrick may not get much of an opportunity since the Angels are struggling and the A's appear ready and able to take control of the division (my prediction about the Rangers winning the division aside). After struggling for a couple days when he was sent down he continues to hit almost .400 at Salt Lake. Not sure if his 3 for 26 means much although I'm concerned that his lack of plate discipline (7 walks in 207 AB) may make for a tough adjustment at the big league level. Kennedy at second isn't great but is serviceable and so it's not like they have a gaping hole to fill but Kendrick's also been playing some third and first I believe so taking Quinlan's or Morales' at bats would be helpful although his lack of power may be problematic.
Chris Young on the other hand is in the starting rotation and contributing right now and the Padres are hanging around in a division where no one is probably going to run away with it. Certainly Young needs to walk a few a less and give up fewer homeruns but he's really only pitched poorly in three starts out of 14 and he hasn't thrown more than 111 pitches in a game so he should be well positioned for the second half. I watched some of his 8 inning 1-hitter against the Rockies and although his fastball is in the low 90s he can get it by people I assume because of his arm angle coming from his 6'10" frame.
Anyway, it's hard to diss a career .350+ hitter in the minors but I'll take Young on this one.
ethanfry (New England): The first player from the 2006 draft to debut in the majors for an AL team will be ______ in 20xx and for in NL team ______ in 20xx.
Dan Fox: Wow, a fill in the blanks question! Takes me back to my junior high days...but following the format I would say:
The first player from the 2006 draft to debut in the majors for an AL team will be Andrew Miller (Tigers) in 2007 and for in NL team Timothy Lincecum (Giants) in 2006.
BTW, at http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/events/draft/y2006/tracker/search.jsp there is nice run down of the draft complete with video links. Take a look at Lincecum's delivery if you haven't seen it. When he reaches back he actually looks like he's going to the ground and then snaps the arm through. I think most folks that I've heard indicate that Lincecum is the one who is closest at this point to making a contribution out of the bullpen perhaps this season.
Kerry Wood (Chicago): Will the Cubs ever trade me?
Dan Fox: I think the question should really be - Can the Cubs trade me? The three-year contract he signed in 2004 runs through this season and looked like this:
2004: $7.0 + 1/3 of $3.0M signing bonus
2005: $8.5M + 1/3 of $3.0M signing bonus
2006: $11M + 1/3 of $3.0M signing bonus
2007: Team option - $13.5M salary vs. $3.0M buyout
No way the Cubs should pick up that option in my view. Wood did have a player option for 2007 if he pitched 400 innings in 05 and 06 but obviously that's not happening. With his injury history a contending team probably wouldn't take the chance this year either unless...the Cubs get smart and send him to the pen ASAP (well, when he comes back anyway). If he looks Smoltz-like for a month he may indeed be tradable.
GBSimons (Seymour, IN): Dan, I'm so glad Bud Selig has promised to do everything in his power to get PEDs out of the game. With Selig, Mitchell and Congress involved, they're guaranteed to get this fixed, permanently and perfectly, right?
(Mind-altering drugs obviously aren't on my personal banned list.)
Dan Fox: Aboslutely. Couldn't agree more. Done deal. Can of corn.
That said, I'm not quite the skeptic with regards to the Mitchell investigation as others are. Baseball has to do something and while it's not going to fix everything it could be used as the avenue for baseball to release all of this information in a controlled way that doesn't do further damage to the sport. Nobody wants to see blackened names and leaked affidavits as the primary way this gets covered going forward.
Evan (Vancouver, BC): Is WX really a useful analytical tool? It strikes me as highly context dependant.
Dan Fox: It is absolutely the case that WX is all about context. In my mind that makes it not so useful for most player evaluation where you're trying to essentially determine value for the future. The reason is that situations are determined mostly by chance and it hasn't been shown that there is much if any clutch ability that would alter the results.
That said, I like it for looking at MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Cy Young-type metrics since they are all about what happened in the past.
WX is useful, however, for player evaluation when dealing with relievers since their opportunities are not conditioned so much by chance and of course for looking at strategic questions like when to bunt, when to steal, when to intentionally walk Barry Bonds. Even then, we should probably apply a more granular way of determining WX values at any given point in the game to make conclusions that are applicable to specific situations.
The short answer is no for some things and yes for others.
kufflerj (Philly): I think the Chris Young tommybones was referring to was the OF for AZ, not the pitcher for SD.
Dan Fox: I see said the blind man - and the rest of you can stop telling me the same thing :)
Young is currently at Tusco (AAA) and hitting .283/.358/.524 but it's not clear to me anyway how he fits in the D'Backs outfield at present. Byrnes is hitting well and Green and Gonzales are probably not going to be sat.
If I had to guess, I'd say neither at this point.
jouell57 (NH): Do you know of any research done that tracks average velocity of the ball off the bat (sort of like HitTracker but for all batted balls) as a measure of hitting skill, and do you think this would be an interesting analytical approach?
Dan Fox: That's an interesting question for which I have no answer. In other words, I haven't seen data like this available yet. If I'm not mistaken that is the kind of data MLBAM will be collecting in the coming years.
I do think it would be useful primarily in order to help sort out whos a pretender and who is not when dealing with small sample sizes. I'm thinking of guys like Clint Barmes who start off really hot as rookies or second year players but who do so on the strength of bleeders, bloopers, bunt hits, etc. Having that kind of data would help teams identify a performance colored by this and not waste two more years perhaps thinking he's their guy and then hit him second in the order for almost the an entire season and he hits .195...but I digress.
Mike (Connecticut): Billy Beane should (trade/collect FA compensation on/extend) Barry Zito.
Dan Fox: Whether he does or not I think the great thing that Beane does is make sure everyone knows that he's entirely happy to take the draft picks if he loses Zito to free agency. In the end that means he'll get better offers than he would otherwise and be able to make a nice trade.
The reverse of this is when former Royals GM Allard Baird had to trade Carlos Beltran or lose him to free agency. As a result, he had to settle for Buck, Wood, and Teahen none of whom are probably ever going be much better than league average if that.
And of course for small market teams taking the picks saves you some cash as well. With all of that said, Zito is 28 and so his best seasons may be behind him and he's having a good year so his value is high. If I were going by the Branch Rickey dictum I wouldn't extend him and explore the other options.
gecko1 (Cupertino, CA): Dan Uggla - Alien Possession or Breakout?
Dan Fox: I think the entire Marlins team was abducted a couple weeks ago.
As for Uggla I don't think anyone projects him as a .320/.370/.525 kind of guy but he has decent plate discipline and power and has generally improved as he's been moved up so it certainly wouldn't surprise me to see him at .280/.340/.440 and be a nice player.
Shep (Indiana): Excuse me for asking a fantasy related question, but it is one that is eating away at me. Suppose at the end of the (fantasy/and regular) season you wanted to calculate which fantasy team would have preformed best in "the real world." Would you simply recommend adding up the VORP of all the players on each team and compare, or do you have any other suggestions?
Dan Fox: Sure, a measure like VORP would be appropriate but although I'm not a fantasy player don't you put your team together based on factors outside of overall performance? In truth, that's one of the reasons I don't really prefer it but to each his own :)
Sam (Columbia, MO): Dayton Moore has made 2 additions to his major league club from outside of the organization (Duckworth and Wellemeyer) and both have pitched very well in their short stay. Is this going to be Moore's forte, picking up live armed, unfullfilled potential arms?
Dan Fox: I think it's interesting to watch a new GM in action and try to discern what we're going to see from them in the future. I was talking with my brother, a Royals fan as well, and he was quite pleased with the Duckworth acquisition. I've always kind of liked Wellmeyer as well and if he can gain a little control he could be worth the risk.
But you have to keep in mind that Baird was pretty good at availing himself of the free talent pool at times and then did really strange things. I wrote about some of those in my 5 Questions Piece on the Royals over at THT.
I noticed that their draft was very pitcher heavy - but what else would you expect?
GBSimons (Seymour, IN): Any thoughts on who the Cardinals can/will/should target to upgrade at the OF corners and/or 2B?
Dan Fox: How about Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudz? I hear they can be had pretty cheap.
BTW, here's a pretty funny take on the Royals trading prospects.
But seriously, Grudz wouldn't be a bad pickup.
GBSimons (Seymour, IN): Troy Tulowitzki's arrival date in Denver is ______?
Dan Fox: Let's see: In Tulsa he's at .274/.347/.460. So that means that he'll likely make the jump to AAA late this year or next year and given that Barmes will not be any better I'd say...
Troy Tulowitzki's arrival date in Denver is June 7th, 2007.
GBSimons (Seymour, IN): I'm usually busy at work during the day and have to check out the chat transcripts. It's a slow day today, so I have the chance to participate live. This is fun. Thanks for answering my questions.
Dan Fox: So am I (at work that is). Don't tell anyone.
Adam J. Morris (Houston, Texas): The A.L. West race...is Oakland just going to run off with it, or do you think Texas keeps it a two-team race thru September?
Dan Fox: I think Texas is going to stay in the running awhile but the A's are probably the stronger team in the end based on their pitching.
The A's run differential is not very large however and they need more production in center and at first. The big question for the Rangers is whether Little Sarge and DeRosa can continue to hit. History would tell you that Matthews can't keep it up and at the top of the order he's been pretty critical. I think Mench and Wilkerson basically cancel each other out.
On the mound Millwood you would think should have a better second half and of course Rheinecker has been pretty big for them.
KT (Toronto): I recently read an article by Keith Law on ESPN where he described the Jays farm system as the most weak its been since the early 90s, and attributed it to the fact the Jays were "overly conservative" in drafting. Although these are valid points, my question is, is it fair for Law who so recently left the Jays to turn around and criticize that organization's drafting sytle and farm system, which he had help build OR do you think that his disapproval of this philiosophy may have contributed to him leaving the Jays?
Dan Fox: It seems clear from the piece (having no behind the scenes knowledge of the situation) that a philosophical difference of some kind might have contributed to his departure.
That said, I think its fair if he really felt he had no control over the situation. It would seem odd to be critical if you really took some level of responsbility.
Sorry the responses are slow, the site seems to be having a few issues.
alfredo1 (work): Dan -How to explain the A's yearly second half hot-streak? Coincidence? Or something more?
Dan Fox: Coincidence. It's not as if the A's have a history of making major changes in June or being that active in the trading deadline market and so I'd have to chalk it up simple coincidence.
Mike (Connecticut): Mark Cuban has been sniffing around the Pirates for a while. What kind of MLB owner can we project he would he be?
Dan Fox: I think Jason Whitlock had a piece on that topic for the KC Star about a week ago.
In short, I doubt the owners would ever let Cuban get that close. Although I don't follow it that closely my perception is that over time he has had a more hands-off approach in terms of basketball operations but of course his public stunts are what would keep him out of the fraternity.
johncwhitehouse (NYC): Short and simple: What the hell is wrong with the Indians?
Dan Fox: Short and simple: Three quarters of the infield hits like 10 year old girls and they've blown 11 save opportunities in 20 chances. Yikes.
bctowns (Chicago The Land of Despair): Dan,
I've been racking my brains trying to think of what the Cubs can do to fix their problems. I've got nothing, what do you think?
Dan Fox: Here's an excerpt from my blog while watching the game yesterday where they lost 12-3 to the Tigers:
Having lost six in a row and on the verge of replacing the Pirates in the NL Central cellar, it doesn't get much worse than this. I continue to be amazed that quotes from the team and from their broadcasters don't seem to focus on the obvious – there simply is very little offensive talent on this team. Today's lineup featured Pierre, Womack, Jacque Jones, Henry Blanco, Matt Murton, and Ronny Cedeno. The only threats to actually hit the ball hard are a struggling Aramis Ramirez and Phi Nevin who recently lost his job with the Rangers. In the sixth inning today Len Casper and Brenly discussed the situation and seemed to be under the impression that it's all a matter of timing – when the pitching is good the hitting stinks and when they score runs they get poor starting pitching. Although I'm not sure what he meant, Brenly at one point indicated that the problems run very deep and that I think is much closer to the truth. It's really the architecture of the team that is to blame which falls squarely at the feet of GM Jim Hendry and manager Dusty Baker.
Which brings us to these nuggets of wisdom Dusty shared with the press as quoted on The Cub Reporter:
"I put Tony at the top because Juan was having trouble getting on base. ... Juan's a leadoff man, but Tony's a leadoff man, too. It's kind of a double leadoff man."
"Tony Womack's done pretty (darn) good, too, since he's been here. ... Not everybody wants power. I thought we wanted small ball for a while."
"I love power. I love power and small ball. I like the option. It is a valid argument, but at the same time, some of my better defenses were with Womack out there, too, and speed. I'll try to use them all if I can."
In short, this season is a loss obviously but they should let Wood go, trade Pierre if at all possible, and look to trade a pitching prospect or two for a hitting prospect or two. Then use the Wood money to dip into the free agent waters and try and land a corner outfielder. Their window of opportunity is shrinking and will have to do some fairly radical things to get it turned around for 2007.
Dan Fox: Thanks everyone for participating!
I apologize that I didn't get more questions answered as there are sitll plenty in the hopper and for the site issues we experienced.
Feel free to ping me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.